French fine dining in Bangkok – Le Normandie
For us, a visit to this sprawling city usually means a trip to the dentist, so what better way of celebrating a clean bill of dental health than some French fine dining in Bangkok?
So off we trundled to the Mandarin Oriental hotel, nestling on a bank of the Chao Phraya river, with the expectation of a world-class experience.
Le Normandie is a grand restaurant. It tests positive to white linen, chandeliers and luxe upholstery. Chef Arnaud Dunand-Sauthier holds court here with his contemporary take on French classics, winning two Michelin stars in the first Bangkok guide.
At lunch there are various options – a degustation, a la carte, or the one we settled on, three courses for THB1800. There were a few choices for each course which we negotiated skilfully and all that was left was to decide which champagne we’d have by the glass, but more on that later.
This is a bright restaurant during the day so Greedy Girl needed to keep her shades on. Sipping a lovely full glass of Louis Roederer, it wasn’t long before the complimentary treats started flowing.
First up was a selection of nibbles, an interesting carrot and ginger foam with salmon roe, served with a giant prawn cracker, and a board featuring a beef tartare, herring and onion powder ‘sandwich’ and an escargot tart with garlic and parsley.
The carrot and ginger was interesting; there wasn’t much of a salty pop from the roe, but it was enjoyable.
The sandwich and tart were both completely edible; the addition of the fish to the beef was a rather out there combo. They went well with the champagne but it has to be said that neither really got the tastebuds excited.
Another complimentary dish was next. This was King Ora salmon served with grapefruit and celery.
A pretty-looking plate, the salmon was utterly delicious but grapefruit and celery aren’t top of the list for Greedy Girl and she felt they were too strong. Still, it was hoovered up.
Starting with the menu proper, gluttonous husband had the dish featured at the top of this post. These are oysters ‘Jean Paul’ from Normandy (as you’d expect) served warm with celeriac and bee pollen. There was also a little mound of oyster tartare.
Gluttonous husband usually regards cooked oysters as sacrilege but he quite enjoyed this combination. A good start.
Greedy Girl, of course, couldn’t go past the seared duck foie gras with orange and a red wine sauce.
The orange consisted of a little candied peel plus some gel and there were also some shards of gingerbread biscuit on top. Fruit and foie gras is a classic partnership but Greedy Girl didn’t really warm to the red wine sauce. Still, it was hard to stop eating and hand over a fair swag of it to gluttonous husband.
We moved on to our main courses. Gluttonous husband took the roasted duck from Challans, with red cabbage, cassis and walnut.
Beautifully presented, the duck was actually slightly firmer to the bite than gluttonous husband expected but the flavours were all excellent.
Greedy Girl had what she considers the dish of the day – milk-fed lamb from France with corn, Cevennes onion and black winter truffle.
This went together so well. The corn and onion mix gave more moisture and texture and there’s no sight more likely to gladden Greedy Girl’s heart (on a plate, that is) than big slices of truffle.
The lamb was absolutely melt-in-the-mouth tender. We were given some fairly extraordinary knives to carve up the meat but you could have probably cut this lamb with a butter knife. Delish.
It was time for our dessert. Greedy Girl took an old favourite – tarte au citron, topped with lashings of soft meringue which was torched at the table.
It wasn’t as tangy as other lemon tarts but beautifully smooth and the crunch from the biscuit base was very pleasant.
Gluttonous husband took a walk down memory lane with Crepes Suzette. This was prepared at the table in the traditional style, complete with the theatrical ‘flambe’ at the end. And here it is …
The dessert was served with a small glass of rich and creamy vanilla ice-cream. Gluttonous husband relished it.
We thought we were done, but another complimentary combo came out – a soft French cake with little bowls of raspberry jam and rice pudding, and two dark chocolates.
The chocolates were divine, but Greedy Girl has never been a fan of rice pudding and this wasn’t about to change her mind. The cake was very light and weakly, she dipped a segment into the jam. It wasn’t as sweet as expected.
And we were over and out. We decided not to have a second glass of champagne when it was offered; given one glass was almost as expensive as the entire menu it’s a bit of a shock to the system. The bottle of still water also came in at an eye-watering cost. Still, when you take everything into account, we had a very good meal for around A$300 in total.
The main courses here were more interesting and flavourful than the starters, which is a bit of a departure from what we’ve experienced in recent times.
It was a very, very pleasant experience and if French fine dining in Bangkok appeals to you, it’s hard to go past.